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Paper Airplane How-To App Flies Straight and True

Paper Airplane How-To App Flies Straight and True

How to Make Paper Airplanes is a library of paper flyer design. It has directions for easy-to-make paper airplanes, difficult ones, and everything in between, all with animated walk-throughs. U.S. users be warned -- the directions are based on a European standard of paper that's slightly different that 8.5 x 11. That usually won't be a problem, though.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
06/18/12 5:00 AM PT

How to Make Paper Airplanes, an app by Sergey Burlakov, is available free at the App Store.

How to Make Paper Airplanes
How to Make Paper Airplanes

If you're stuck in the office all summer long -- or even just on one of those sun-shining Fridays -- and you are in serious need of a diversion that flies under the radar, check out How to Make Paper Airplanes.

This app is pretty simple -- it basically walks you through how to make nearly two dozen types of paper airplanes, ranging from a handful of super-simple throwers you might recognize all the way up to an F-117 Night Hawk.

Why paper airplanes? Why not? They're way cooler than origami flowers.

Besides, I've never seen anyone -- other than a junior high school teacher -- not watch the flight of a paper airplane with interest or appreciation.

A nice flight always brings smiles.

How It Works

Like any great single-purpose app, How to Make Paper Airplanes is simple, uncluttered and at least mostly effective. When you first download and install the app, you have half a dozen paper airplane templates to choose from. Want more? There are another 16 that you can download and use free. I was pleased to see that Sergey Burlakov isn't charging for downloads, but do note that you can choose to remove the bottom banner ad via an in-app purchase for $1.99.

After you launch, you simply choose which plane you want to build. The difficulty is ranked on a scale of one to three, with one (green circle) being easy and three being difficult. Next, you're going to need paper. The animated illustrations use paper that is white on one side and colored on the other, which could be quite handy if you're able to scrounge some up in the office supply cabinet. If not, nab a few sheets out of the printer. Be forewarned, American pilots: Many of the planes are designed to be built on A4 paper, which is an international standard size, I believe, at 8.3 inches x 11.7 inches. The standard in the U.S. seems to 8.5 x 11. So proportions are sometimes a bit off as you fold, but for me, the difference was doable. I'm certainly not running out to the store to find A4 paper.

To learn the moves, you tap your way through steps. Each step shows the virtual paper being folded. Some of these moves you're going to want to watch several times, which means you're going to tap a central reload button. I tapped it a lot. The icon for the app says "3D" on it, but take that with a grain of salt -- the animated illustrations are shaded pretty well, and you can see how the paper is being folded as it moves, but don't expect something that will truly pop off your screen.

Start Slow

The first plane I tried to build was a wicked F-16 Fighter Falcon. It was all going well for the first four or five steps, but then I think my brain locked up. Some of the moves are shown with two sides of a piece of paper being folded at the same time, and as near as I can tell, some of them have to be made by dexterous fingers folding just one side, then the other. And when you do one side, there's a chance that you'll unravel the other side.

You'll likely need some patience.

As for the F-16 Fighter Falcon, I gave up halfway through the 19 steps it takes to build it. Quitter, I know. Maybe some other time.

Meanwhile, I wanted something that I could build that could fly. I choose the "Super plane 2." It's got a familiar shape, and the first couple of steps are familiar to any kid who has ever made paper airplanes. It deviates then, but it's not hard. And its wings have an odd downward fold along the front edge. I was doubtful about that last fold, but hey, I made the fold and threw the plane. To my surprise, it sailed 25 feet -- nicely, with stability and a gentle curve to the right.

Hmm. That curve ... upon close inspection, one of my downward folds on the front wing was bigger than the other, no doubt creating the aerodynamics that led to the curving flight path.

Perfect. With a little tweaking, I imagine this plane could be made to fly around a corner in an office and surprise someone on the other side. Maybe with a cryptic message written on the wing: "Meet me on the brown bench in the atrium at 1 p.m. Bring cookies."

Of course, the Super plane 2 has a sharp pointy nose, so if you throw it, you're responsible for it.

Nice to Have in Your Pocket

How to Make Paper Airplanes is designed for both iPhone and iPad, and whichever version you use, knock out a couple easy planes first to warm up your brain and fingers, especially if you're pulling out this app to divert some kids with something in the real physical world.

As for me, I learned that I won't become an origami creator, but I must say, there is a certain small measure of satisfaction to be gained after you watch and fold and scratch your head and watch again, then fold, and suddenly boom, you've got a paper plane in your hands ready for flight.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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